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Quick Guide: Enforcement

Enforcement is one of the more contentious processes within the planning system and needs to be carefully navigated by homeowners, developers, and planning professionals alike.

In this Quick Guide, we shall answer FIVE FAQs on enforcement to provide an introduction to the legislation and processes.

1. What is Enforcement?

Essentially, enforcement deals with developments which have been carried out without the required planning permission or the failure to comply with any planning conditions. This is often referred to as a "breach of planning control".

This could involve creating a wall without planning permission, demolishing a house without planning permission, changing the use of a building without planning permission, or constructing a new block of flats differently to the plans which have been approved. This is only a few examples, but enforcement matters can deal with a huge variety of breaches of planning control.

The Royal Town Planning Institute describe planning enforcement as the 'backbone' of the planning system, which serves to maintain integrity and confidence within the industry.

2. What is an Enforcement Notice?

An Enforcement Notice may be issued when the Council believe a breach of planning control has taken place at a site.

An Enforcement Notice will state exactly what, in the Local Planning Authority's (LPA's) view, has occurred in breach of planning control and what steps are required to remedy the breach.

LPAs can also issue Enforcement Warning Notices, inviting applications where it appears a development is in breach of planning control. This will allow people to have a 'second bite' at their development through the planning application process. Usually, getting permission through the planning application process is quicker and less convoluted than enforcement, so this second bite is a useful option to have.

3. How long before I am not at risk for Enforcement?

The short answer is, for most developments, LPAs have a 10-year time limit for bringing enforcement action ("the 10-year rule"). After which, no enforcement action may be taken.

Recent updates to legislation, including the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023, have changed the time limits for enforcement action. The four-year time limit for bringing enforcement action against a dwellinghouse ("the four year rule") has been removed. Now, a single 10-year rule applies to all development.

However, these changes come into force from 25 April 2024. Importantly, the changes will not apply where the alleged development to create a single dwelling occurred before 25 April 2024. Therefore, if this is the case for your development, you may wish to obtain evidence to demonstrate the continuous use and submit a lawful development certificate.

For further guidance on the key changes under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act from 25 April 2024, the Planning Inspectorate have published a helpful news story detailing the changes, which is available here.

4. Can I appeal an enforcement notice?

Yes! The main routes to appeal an Enforcement Notice are through the 7 Grounds of Appeal which are set out at Section 174 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. These are all included within our Enforcement service page, available here.

It is important to consider your options quickly as there is a 28 day period within which an Enforcement Appeal can be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. If no appeal is submitted, then you must comply with the notice or face consequences, which could include criminal prosecution.

Additionally, the Planning Inspectorate (who consider enforcement appeals) have the power to dismiss appeals against enforcement notices and certificate of lawfulness on the grounds of undue delay by the appellant in progressing the appeal. Therefore, it is important to consider your options quickly.

5. How can Viable Placemaking help?

As a town planning consultancy, Viable Placemaking are experienced in navigating all areas of the town planning system, including planning enforcement. We have submitted and assisted with several Enforcement Appeals and provided advice to fellow professionals on the processes involved.

Whether you are a homeowner, professional developer, architect, or fellow town planner - if you would like assistance regarding an Enforcement Notice or would like to consider an Enforcement Appeal, please feel free to get in touch.


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